Saturday, February 01, 2014

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 42 (Happy Memories)

Hello there girls.

I'm here to tell you about Happy.
Not the dwarf, not the feeling, but the dog who happens to be... well... both dwarfish and happy for that matter.

Happy was the first dog that we adopted when we found we were pregnant with Big Sister Margaret. On one part, we couldn't resist adopting another red poodle, while on the other part, we were hoping that if Happy and Margaret grew up together they'd be best friends.

When Happy came, there was a resident favorite. Her name has Jennifer. also a poodle. And while Jennifer reigned queen and Stolich the Patriarch stood as king of the pack (although they weren't exactly mates), Happy was just running around being cute. Simply because he was. he really was.

Over three years, And a couple of dead poodles, one poisoned Pomeranian, and one poisoned labrador retriever later, Happy started acting up (in a good way). He knew as big as the pack was, he knew what he had to do.

After Jennifer finally succumbed to renal failure caused by a batch of contaminated dog food (which also claimed her other siblings and mother), Stolich was obviously not just a favorite but also simply respected as somebody who stood revered partly because he was unusually old and partly also because, well he gave us over a dozen new puppies we treated and loved like children before you guys came along. Surprisingly (and happily), at over fifteen years old, he's still here. Healthy appetite, healthy attitude, bad to no eyesight, poor hearing, but I think a pretty decent sense of smell that can sniff me out whenever i'm back home with you guys.

But more on Stolich in another post.

What made Happy particularly special the past year and a half was that while us humans tend to pick favorites among our pets, he wasn't exactly chosen. He actually made himself the favorite by fighting to stand out and making sure that he was closest to us to your mother closer than anybody was. Happy wiggled through door cracks just to find and be with your mom, he would follow your mom like red furry shadow wherever she went around the house. 

Man was he devoted. He loved your mom, and your mom loved him so much. And even more and more each passing day.

Funny enough for a tiny little dog, Happy had one giant sized ego. One day, this ego got itself into a fight with Loopy the big playful beagle, who normally doesn't hurt other dogs. Heaven only knows what really happened, but next thing we knew, Loopy did a number on Happy and no amount of prayers can help stitch together a handsome toy poodle with a fractured skull.

It happened on the actual day when Baby Sister Maddie hit her first birthday. Your mother and I were devastated.

After losing so many dogs... well, more like four-legged children, to a batch of contaminated dog food (read above about Jennifer. Or read here.), we thought Happy was safe from that after all, and would hang around for a long long time. Probably until you guys grew up. But life always has a funny way of surprising us sometimes. although sometimes it just isn't funny.

It's been a little less than a week when we got news that he really couldn't hang on. I'm still grieving. So is your mother. Happy is worth grieving for and remembering. When i get home, i will head to the vet and pick up Happy's cremated remains. I plan to sprinkle a pinch of his ashes in the garden as tribute.

I'm writing this entry so you girls will remember Happy.
I know your mother and I always will.
Hey, Happy. We miss you terribly. Please say hello to the other kids up there for us, okay?

'catch you later.

Love,


Dad

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Letters to Maddie: Chapter 41 (Lucky Girl)


 Dearest Maddie,

you guys know who's who
in this pic, right?
Your mother and i have been waiting for you for probably around two years. But someone else has been waiting for you all her life. Although she probably only knew it when she was three. You might know this person. Her name is Margaret. "Marge" to most, "Achie" to you.

As i write this, you are all of ten months old. Your achie is five and a half. Your mother and i are to meet at a neighborhood mall to exchange a piece of merchandise we bought a couple of nights ago, and have a quick dinner in the process.

I'm coming from the office, while your mother is coming from the house. She was supposed to drag
Marge with her so she and i can spend some time together before i ride up tonight. You couldn't come because you were still nursing a cold.

Your sister didn't want to come because she'd rather stay home with you.

Back when she was all by her lonesome she'd object to not being brought along virtually anywhere. And whenever your mother and i are about to walk out through any door, she'd say "me sama," and proceed to tail us.

All that changed when you arrived, and while we sometimes miss having your Achie around when your mother and i go out, we could not be happier about this devotion we see on her part.

Some day in the future, you and your sister will squabble over big and little things. Sometimes, she'll piss you off or make you mad or whatever. Like how sometimes she wont lend you her toys, or when she'll borrow your favorite shoes without asking, or you aren't happy because she has a bigger house than you, or whatever. Sometimes, she won't see things the way you do, even if sometimes you could be right. And when those times happen (and believe me, they will), keep it in your heart and mind that none of them matter because before anything at all, the love between you is pure and began the moment your Achie was told you were already quietly growing in your mother's belly.

Always remember how when you could barely crawl, you had a guardian angel to whom you were the world. Someone whose greatest joy shifted from following me and your mom everywhere to staying behind to watch over you. And she was only all of five and half years old then.

You're a really lucky girl to have such a sister. Never forget that.
And yes, she knows how lucky she is to have you, too.

Love,

Dad

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 40 (Life is not a contest)

Dear girls,

Sometime many weeks ago, your dad had an interesting day. Early in the afternoon, your grandmother whisked everyone away to one of her beach houses (yes, on a Monday). After dinner, i hitched with your Uncle Pom back up the hill and proceeded to run off to the Manor at Camp John Hay for my usual Monday night jam with the Fusion Band. Was late. But better late than not there at all.
Guy on the right is Daryl,
smiling idiot on the left is your dad
Good thing i caught up. People from the lifestyle section of the Inquirer (a big, big newspaper in these times). They chatted up the band (the real members of the band. Namely: Vocalist Pia Santayana Trinidad, Saxman Joanie Abubo, Bassist Egai Buning, Pianist Teddy Liberato, and fellow Sting-fanatic multi-talented singer-guitarist Ric Maniquis. There are other guys in the band. But the ones i mentioned were present that night. Your dad just jams along like a ten-year old being allowed to shoot hoops in an NBA court from time to time), and discovered many of us only played music on the side. And right after i did a rendition of "Let Me In" by Mike Francis, one of the ladies hollered: "quit your day jobs! Compliments hardly get sweeter than that. :)

Speaking of jamming along, another guy who jammed along is a kid named Daryl Ladioray, who played tenor saxophone.

Daryl's a nice simple kid who was referred to me by my good friend and erstwhile bandmate Caloy dela Fuente. He chatted up Caloy through the Sax Society of the Philippines Facebook page, asking about how to make his sound "sexy" or "sweet" or some such. Finding out Daryl was from Baguio City, Caloy promptly hooked us up.

After hearing the kid blow, i correctly guessed he was a marching band player. So after a couple of unqualified so-called "lessons," i taught him to bend notes and make his sax not just sing, but "speak." Unqualified, because quite frankly, my technical proficiency in playing the saxophone was the rough equivalent of some loser who just because he could whip up scrambled eggs, then proceeds to call himself a chef.

Daryl sounds much much better now. But i honestly doubt i had that much to do with it. Especially when he sounds so much better than i do at this point.

So over a couple of vodka tonics, Daryl said that there are times when he feels inadequate when he finds himself listening to sax players his age who are playing much better than him. So i asked him with a smile: "can you imagine how i feel when i listen to how much better you are now than i ever was?"

Then i told him that i personally have no one else but myself to blame for that. And that i do feel left behind, yes. But i was okay with it. After all, he has spent many of his waking hours playing his horn and playing with other people. He did not have to worry about having to distribute his time between being a dad, being a husband, manning a store, managing an advertising office, designing stuff, and Heaven knows how many other crazy things i dabbled in. But i chose to do all those. And if the price for having experienced and tried all those things was still sucking at playing saxophone after twenty one whole years from when i started, then so be it.

I just have to reconcile myself with the thought that if i still want to become as good as i hope to be, then i either have to give up so many other things in my life or still keep at it, but it will definitely take longer than most. (As if twenty one years at this point still wasn't long enough. Heh heh... But who's counting, right?)

Most (or least) importantly, i was not competing with anyone. And, i told Daryl, i did not think he was either. Life is a journey, not a race. It's much too short to waste looking behind or ahead of you all the time. 

Life is too beautiful and too much fun to live it as a contest. So don't.

As you tread along the pathway of life, walk... Look around you and enjoy the sights, the sounds, the smell of the breeze and all those other Hallmark card thingies... Skip a bit, if there are puddles along the way. Run sometimes. But only for brief periods, if and when you have to catch a better view of a sunset or a fading rainbow. Trot, if you find yourself joyful. Dance, if you hear music.

Live. Don't compete, because it should be all about how you choose live your life. And not how your life compares with others.'

And no, all the above is not my excuse for being a mediocre horn player (at best). Although i still am. But i'll get better yet. Maybe i'll even play at your weddings, if you'll let me, right? :)

Daryl, however, sounds great now.

'catch you later.

Love,
Dad

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 39 (A Day in the Life...)

Hello, girls.

First off, i obviously write this blog in forward order, which means that should you guys log on and start reading from the very first post you guys end up finding and keep going, then you will be reading everything in reverse chronology. Make sense?

Anyway... In my last post, i mentioned being awfully lonely up here, where i still am as i write this. So i have decided to give you ladies a little tour of my evenings when i'm up here. Except for Monday nights, when i grab a horn or two and head for the Manor at Camp John Hay to remind myself (and anyone else unfortunate enough to be at the Piano Bar) why i dont have a professional music career despite how much i claim to love making music.

So here we go...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

So i start my day at the store between 9-930 in the morning, and let's assume i leave the store at around 8 to 815 in the evening, drive on home, and park the car in the garage ten to fifteen minutes later.

I open the front door and find this...


This is the foyer (or "fau-yay," as the French supposedly pronounce it).

I plop my backpack down on the couch.. This here couch set:

I turn to the other side here...
I grab a couple or so horns from that center table over there, and the maids proceed to inform me that the left-over lunch that i've brought home has been prepared on the table to be re-labeled as dinner at the dining room in the lower level. In this here table where only i sit at:
Sorry, forgot to take a photo with the food on it.

After a quick dinner, i go back upstairs and proceed to mess up the couch and it usually looks like this:
This set-up usually commences right after dinner anytime between 830-9pm. This period involves me catching up with some work and some music practice. Then i take a shower and finally decide i'll call it a day sometime between 12 midnight to perhaps 1-130am.
Then i head inside to find this:
And i either find something to read online, or bring myself a book to read 'til my eyelids feel like 50 pounds each, and that's usually at around 2am.

Zzzzzzzzzz...

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One merciful detail i didnt mention is that i usually have your mother's chatty mug on my iPad via Facetime. So that helps make things a lot lot less empty.
But the house still feels like an echoing hall.

So there. That's an evening in Daddy's life up here.

Until the next post.
Bye, girls. See you in a couple of days.

Love,

Dad



Saturday, September 07, 2013

Letters to Maddie: Chapter 38 (Sorry i'm not there right now...)

Dear Maddie,

Hello there, Baby Girl.

It's a late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, and i'm up in our other house. The cold, lonely and empty one (most of the time, but not all the time since you guys come over sometimes).

And I'm alone. And you, Marge and mommy are down there in our "other" other house. The warm, happy one where you're gently growing up and learning how to crawl, stand and maybe walk, where your mother and your sister are fighting about homework, where dogs bark incessantly just because. And i wish i was there right now.

I apologize for not being there while you work on doing a lot of your firsts (first step, first words, and so on). I apologize for mostly being little more than this disembodied smiling face on an iPad screen most of the time. I apologize for not changing your diapers like i wish i could. I apologize for not humming you lullabies to sleep for many nights.

I apologize because i know i might miss a lot of good times with you.

When your sister was your age, and all the way until she had to start school, your mother and i dragged her infant ass around and across the northern highways back and forth while i juggled keeping Maverick running, and finding my place up here. But when she started school, she had to stay put. So when you were born, for better or worse, i could no longer drag you, Marge and your mother up and down with me like i used to. There were lots of good times there, too.

But our life is what it is. It's got its good and bad stuff. In equal parts, just like everyone else's lives do, too.

But physically there or not, i want you to know that i'm always thinking about you. You, your mom and your sister. And i want you to know that if me being up here enables me to send you guys to better schools, afford to let you learn more stuff, take you to nice places and feed you guys better food, and just plain make your life more comfortable, then being alone up here writing this is totally worth it.

That's how much i love you.

And besides, this is hardly permanent. I'll be home for another week at least in just three more days. That's three more days of missing you guys. I'll make it up to you when i get home.

See you then, Baby Girl.

'Til then, i'll be okay with this...


Love,

Dad

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 37 (Belated Happy Birthday to Me a.k.a. "Life Begins at 40 my Ass....")

Dearest Marge and Maddie,

What, me worry? :)
Daddy has officially been forty years old for sixteen days now.

A wee bit late perhaps for a birthday post like i usually do in these here parts. But hey, better late now than even much later down, right? Obviously, there is much to share on an occasion like one's fortieth birthday. (Incidentally, your mom also turned forty recently. Twenty six days ago, to be exact.)

Ever hear that life supposedly "starts at 40"? Well, i'm here to tell you that that is absolute crap. Truth is, life begins when one starts breathing. And life just keeps going on as you do. It honestly does not feel any different between being forty years old, and the couple of years or so before that. "Life begins at 40" is said by people who finally realize they are officially no longer young, and have got to get up and going and trying out the things they've always wanted before they kick their proverbial bucket. Probably because they haven't dared to live their lives a lot sooner like they should have.

So i'm now forty years old.

I tell that to myself from time to time for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes, i find myself sad. But mostly, i actually find myself feeling like my heart could burst with the happy sounds, textures and colors, and all the gratitude at how not-so-screwed-up my life has so far been. Sometimes, i take stock of life so far, and i find myself fighting back a joyful teardrop or two.

I have two beautiful children (so far), and a loving, strong and eternally beautiful wife whom i could provide properly for. We have a new house that has let me sow my architectural oats and is almost done, i have my own happily struggling (yet happily afloat) little office where i can become writer, artist, teacher and so much more. I now have a firm place in a strong family business, a handful of real friends who have stuck with me through so much, and some even as long as thirty years and going strong. And to top it all off, i finally get to play saxophone (and sometimes sing) at various places nowadays.

Forty with a sax is cool.
No, wait... sax is cool. period. :)
So if they keep telling me that "life begins at 40," then what the heck does one call the funny, crazy, exciting, adventurous, and sometimes dramatic story that i have lived so far? Sure sounds like life to me. And a wonderful one at that.

Thank you, girls, for being among what have made my life wonderful so far.

So before i wrap this post up, let me end it with a bit of advice from a happy forty year-old: one does not get to be a happy forty year-old by being too afraid to try new things out, too weak to hold on to things that truly matter, too lazy to work for what one wants, and too bitter about what one doesn't have to be grateful for what one DOES have. Don't wait. Just live. Now.

Love,

Dad


P.S. Belated happy birthday to me. Indeed. :)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Letters to Marge & Maddie: Chapter 36, Part 1 (Every time daddy leaves...)

Dear Little Ladies...

Tonight, daddy journeys off again up the hills to your grandmother's hometown, Baguio City. Sort of daddy's hometown, too. But not totally since your uncles and i did not really study there, and mostly just enjoyed lengthy vacations and school breaks up there. But regularly enough to have allowed us to call the crisp cool city our home as much as Manila was.

 This is/was my bus.

* * * * * * * *
Fast forward. It has been a week since i got up here, and a mere day before i ride back down.
Time surely flies.

* * * * * * * *
Oops... Fast forward yet again.
I ride down tonight. It has been eight days since i got up here.
Retooling my brain to going back down home is easy. It's the coming up here that's hard sometimes.
Not because i dont like it up here. But just because i like down there a lot more.

Not much in this entry. But it would be best if i post it already for posterity.
I must continue this in the next for i have much to say about it.
Much to share with you about the joys and challenges of being here and there.

But i will see you girls later.

Love,
Dad